Calls for accountability after Tacloban mayor jumped in line to receive COVID-19 jab at home

March 23, 2021 - 6:42 PM
Alfred Romualdez Sinovac
Photos of Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez receiving the Sinovac vaccine (Alfred Romualdez/Facebook)

The Filipino medical community is calling for accountability online after a provincial official got vaccinated with Sinovac’s CoronaVac ahead of health workers.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez shared that he was vaccinated  in his residence with China-made CoronaVac.

Romualdez also stated that a nurse from the Department of Health administered the vaccine that will protect him from contracting the virus which causes COVID-19.

“A DOH Nurse deployed at City Health Office administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Mayor Alfred S. Romualdez today, after the screening and assessment by acting City Health Officer Dr. Gloria Fabrigas. Mayor Romualdez, who is a COVID-19 survivor, encourages the public to get vaccinated as this is one of the effective ways against the deadly virus,” the post read.

Based on the photos, the official was also not wearing a face mask, which is a mandated COVID-19 preventive measure.

Government officials and other members of the public sector are not part of Priority Group A, who are first in the line of the national government’s vaccination program.

This group comprises:

  1. Frontline health service workers
  2. Senior citizens
  3. Patients with underlying health conditions
  4. Other front-line workers who are non-medical such as uniformed personnel
  5. Those who belong in the indigent sector

The public or government sector belongs to Priority Group B, whose members will be inoculated after the first group had received theirs.

Criticisms vs vaccine-line jumping

Members of the medical community and other critics slammed Romualdez for getting ahead of the health workers within his jurisdiction.

They also criticized the official for the home service while other Filipinos get inoculated in hospitals.

“Wow, just look at the opacity, home service pa talaga?! Nakakagalit na po!” a physician said. The term “opacity” came from a meme where a Facebook misused it instead of “audacity.”

“VIP ohh. Sana-ol home service ang inoculation!” another wrote.

Other Filipinos called on government agencies tasked to manage the pandemic to hold Romualdez accountable for the alleged violations.

“Hello, IATF?! So no more prioritization. Kung sinong malakas can get the vaccine first?” one user said.

Some users, meanwhile, pointed out Romualdez’ previous controversies, citing the rehabilitation funds for victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda and his family ties with the Marcos family.

“Sooooo PRIVILEGED! Sadyang nananalaytay na sa dugo nila. Tapos na ba ang Yolanda Rehabilitation Program?” one user said.

“The Romualdez of Leyte think and act as very privilege officials in Leyte, yung vaccines po para sa health workers frontliners po at hindi po para sa pamilya niyo,” another user said.

Health Undersecretary Dr. Leopoldo Vega, also the COVID-19 treatment czar, previously revealed receiving reports about certain “individuals” who were getting inoculated ahead of the health workers.

“We’ve had reports of this. Although we’ve been saying this can’t be because we have a prioritized vaccination in terms of health workers. This has been observed. The numbers are very insignificant but we do see a number jumping the queue,” Vega was quoted as saying in an interview with ANC on March 22.

Romualdez explains

Following the criticisms he received, Romualdez claimed that he was trying to reduce vaccine hesitancy among his constituents.

“Because everyone was scared and everyone was waiting for me. So I did it to lead my people out of fear. And I’m glad they responded positively,” he said.

“Never say that I did it to save myself before others. I did it to make the people see that it was okay to get the vaccine. I wanted our people to take it for protection, and so that the efforts of the national government will not be in vain,” he added.

Palace similarly asserted that government officials are also part of the priority list.

“Mayroon talagang mga taong frontliners within government service na hindi ‘health’ at kasama po iyong opisina namin ‘no dahil we provide information at this critical time of a pandemic,” said presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.

However, he said that medical frontliners should be the only ones receiving the COVID-19 jab for now as vaccine supplies are still limited.

“Dapat medical frontliners pa lang po sa ngayon… We regret this incident, I will refer the matter to DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) for proper action. Kinakailangan po talagang imbestigahan ito,” the spokesman said.

DILG Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III reportedly said his office is now preparing a show cause order against Romualdez to explain the vaccine-line jump.